the Unending Journey of the Wandering Author

A chronicle of the unending journey of the Wandering Author through life, with notes and observations made along the way. My readers should be aware I will not censor comments that disagree with me, but I do refuse to display comment spam or pointless, obscene rants. Humans may contact me at thewanderingauthor at yahoo dot com - I'll reply as I am able.

Location: New England, United States

I have always known I was meant to write, even when I was too young to know the word 'author'. When I learned that books were printed, I developed an interest in that as well. And I have always been a wanderer, at least in my mind. It's not the worst trait in an author. For more, read my writing; every author illuminates their heart and soul on the pages they write upon.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Artists, Photographers, and Writers, Wake Up!

I had planned to post several stories here tonight. That's right, several. I'm sorry to say that instead I am posting a warning about new idiocy contemplated by the United States Congress, idiocy that may deter me from ever posting a story again. Very quietly, something called the "Orphan Works Act" has been prepared to modify the Copyright laws.

Note that even if you live outside the United States, this would make it easier for a US citizen or corporation to pirate your work. It is also intended, in the arrogant plans of the US Copyright Office, to serve as a "model" for other countries dealing with the same problems.

I hate to tell my faithful readers this, but if it passes, I will be taking down many of the posts on this blog. I may take them down in anticipation of its passing. I hate to punish you, my honest readers, but like many other creative people who are already aware of this, I do not feel with such a law hanging over my head it is safe for me to share my work as I have done in the past.

Google that term, and read the details on this proposed law. If a work could truly be established as orphaned, something its creator had lost all interest in, I wouldn't mind the law. Owners of old photographs who want to get them retouched, but can't find the original photographer? There should be a way they can get their photos fixed up legally.

What concerns me is the vague legal language corporate interests have managed to get inserted. I learned, a few years ago, that the real lawmaking isn't even done in Congress any more. Those idiots just rubberstamp ill advised invitations to disaster, then, regulations are drawn up to define what the laws 'mean' by their vague language. That is when the real damage happens.

In this case, major corporations that would just love to steal intellectual property such as artwork, photographs, and writing at low cost, or get their hands on works the creator won't sell to them at any price, now have a great loophole. They only have to make "reasonable" efforts to find the copyright owner. So long as they follow "best practices" whose definition they can influence, they won't be breaking the law.

In addition, they have armies of high powered lawyers on constant retainer: with loopholes like this for their corporate sharks to rip through, no copyright holder who has to struggle to afford a lawyer at all will ever stand a chance against them. On one forum, an artist is calling for all artists, photographers, and writers, and the businesses that depend on them, to organise a day, 24 hours, of international protest against this proposed travesty of a law.

What would we do to protest? Take down all creative content, replacing it with a statement: "This is what the Internet will look like if corporate interests have their way, and the Orphan Works Act is passed in the US Congress. If you don't like it, call your congresscritter now." I hope we can pull something like that together. If you think that is a good idea, you have my permission to reprint this post, in its entirety, or write your own post and link to this one.

One final note: the Copyright Office endorses this invasion of our rights in a snarky statement that implies copyright is somehow a privilege. Let's go further, and seek our natural rights. If a carpenter works on a table, is it not his to dispose of as he wishes? We work on our creations - they are ours. It is no privilege to say we own them. Let's seek full legal status with every other person who works for themselves, and has the right to keep the product of their labours, or to part with it on terms they choose.

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Blogger DBA Lehane said...

This is concerning news indeed. Much, I guess, will depend on the definition of making "reasonable efforts" to track down the copyright holder. In terms of a blog we writers (and other artists) should ensure our contact details are available and up to date. In many ways this places greater responsibility on us to make sure we keep track on works we have out there - no mean feat in such a fickle transient e-world. I know I have had work published on blogs/websites where my contact info is most probably horribly out-of-date.

Without having looked at this in greater detail, I will suppose this will make us become more organised as writers and where we post our work?

May 07, 2008 2:34 AM  
Blogger The Wandering Author said...

Lehane, you're right, of course, as far as it goes. But the real trouble is it doesn't stop there. What if someone copies your work without authorisation? What if someone who wants your work "arranges" for it to be copied? Then, they can credibly claim they couldn't find you.

There are supposed to be private databases set up where you can "register" your works. I see several problems here, as well. First, for visual works, the technology to locate a visual match is unreliable at best. Second, the whole idea is untested. Third, what happens if records are "lost" from those databases, or they are tampered with. Fourth, I fear each "registry" will charge creators fees to "register" their works. Which leads into the main concern: this law puts greater burdens on creators, the rightful owners, just so corporations have an easier time making a profit.

For example, Bill Gates' new company, the one that bought out a huge, historic image library, is behind this law, as are other corporations with similar interests.

May 07, 2008 3:01 PM  
Blogger Kilroy_60 said...

Long time, no hear...but it's great to see you posting again.

Hopefully things will work out that you'll be able to stay with us for awhile, eh.

The post you picked up from Fiction Scribe is pretty good; I may have to work on that myself.

I'm Stumbling today; stopped by to give you a big THUMBS UP.

May 09, 2008 10:08 PM  
Blogger Miss Kitty said...

Jesus God. I am stunned. I had no idea.

May 09, 2008 11:06 PM  
Blogger Suzan Abrams said...

You ARE so right, Ray and this is a very important post. But we're at an age where more and more writers are seeking alternative methods by publishing creative work on the web. Sometimes the motives act as a form of rebellion at what may be seen as an 'unfair' traditional trade publishing system. The threat of copyright may still be viewed as a lesser evil but indeed, you are right.
If you viewed it positively though Ray, I'd say this is a really splendid time to be thinking of collecting your wonderful stories into a published book.

May 11, 2008 12:43 PM  
Anonymous tim said...

Wow, I had no idea anyone was paying attention to the Orphan Works thing anymore! Let me say up-front that you shouldn't take down your content.

I'm sure I don't have to tell you that what you're writing is covered under copyright law, and even the orphan works process wouldn't alter that. Having an on-line presence like this is actually fairly beneficial in this regard, as it not only establishes a trail of bread crumbs to demonstrate you wrote any given entry, but it also gives you a public presence, making it easy to confront anyone who might attempt to use your work without permission.

May 15, 2008 7:27 PM  

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